Porn has hijacked our culture: what are we doing about it?

Gail Dines lectures around the world, discussing the adverse affects of pornography not only on our young people’s minds and relationships, but also on general societal attitudes towards women, and the sexualization of women in our society, recognising that pornography has moved from the margins of society into the very mainstream of our culture. 

She presents evidence in direct opposition to claims that porn has delivered a more liberated, edgy sexuality, and reveals a mass-produced vision of sex that is profoundly sexist and destructive – a vision that limits our ability to create authentic, equal relationships free of violence and degradation.

She uses examples from Internet pornography to MTV, pop culture, where industries bombard us with sexualized images of idealized women and men that jump off the screen and into our lives, shaping our gender identities, our body image, and especially our intimate relationships.

As a leading anti-porn feminist and scholar, Gail argues that the dominant images and stories disseminated by the multibillion-dollar pornography industry produce and reproduces a gender system that undermines equality and encourages violence against women.

So, why is it important to think about this issue in context? 

Images construct our world views, our identities and impact our lives in the most profound ways. 

Image of another, image of ourselves, image of what life could be like. We are image-driven beings. 

Many have made millions on creating an ideal ‘image’ of woman, telling all other that if she does not conform to this mould, she is to buy, run, diet, tuck, nip, and paint her way to a closer representation of the ‘fantasy’. 

There is a global industry that is dependent upon women feeling less than satisfied with themselves, which includes the cosmetic industry, the diet market, gyms, beauty parlous, and so much more. 

How did out society get to the point where a mother in a developing world spends each months salary on whitening cream so she can look like the woman in the magazine, while her children go without shoes? 

How did we get to the point where girls are requesting boob jobs and surgery ‘down there’ for their 16th birthdays so she can look like the porn star her boyfriend looks at every other day? 

How much of our body image is a political statement to our social status? 

The richer you are, the more tanned your sin, cause you’ve been on more tropical holidays.

One of Gail’s arguments is that in our current image driven culture, there is a power imbalance that exists even from the viewing of an image of a sexualized female, who is often subordinate to the male she is seeking attention from. In this context, women have their identification stripped from them, the pressure of looking a certain way, and an expectation of her behavior to follow. 

She points out that there is a visual offering of the female body in mainstream culture, this leads to masculine identities formed, where men believe that they have a privilege and a right to female bodies. This leads to those in power have the right to invade the space of the powerless, evidenced by the attitude of some men who feel they have free access to any female body.

This may be expressed through the act of being groped on public transport – where the woman is often too embarrassed to say anything. This, in turn, empowers the perpetrator to keep going, or to try again. 

Our silence as women, and more powerfully, as men, leads to these factors being exacerbated. She states: ‘women have been socialized into acquiescence of our oppression, which leads to robbing men of their humanity’.

So, women not only feel like they have to conform to a certain image of a sex goddess, but that attribute in the woman is then used, taken advantage of, and then mocked and ridiculed. 

A woman is ‘damned if she does, and damned if she does not’. 

Mixed with alcohol and peer pressure in a culture of sexualization, Gail argues that we set up our young women in a patriarchal society for not only a power imbalance, but we leave the average girl in a vulnerable and literally exposed situation.

Gail makes the point that in our hyper-sexualized culture, the Beyonce’s of our world can have the best of both worlds – they have body guards to protect them from these adverse effects, but the social norms they create on stage and on screen has adverse affects for the average young woman in the community which they do not experience, because they are so removed from this reality. 

Is it any wonder that victims of sexual assault are more likely to be girls between the age of 15 and 30?

From her feminist philosophical viewpoint, Gail points out that female sexuality is defined as vulnerable in a patriarchal society. I’m not a feminist per se, but I tend to agree with her. 

She challenges society’s script to young women, which tells them to become a ‘slut’ to feel empowered. She points out that the phrase ‘slut’ was created by men in a patriarchal society. 

It is men who have the power to use the word, to label a woman a ‘slut’, with the woman being labelled having no way of removing this label that cuts oh so deep and lasts a lifetime.  

She discusses the commercialization of women’s sexuality as commodification, pointing out that studies have shown that girls defined as ‘sluts’ have symptoms very similar to rape victims, developing post traumatic stress disorder, including increased depression, anxiety, suicidality, alcoholism, drug abuse, self mutilation and low self esteem. 

It is for this reason that Gail calls that labelling of girls in our society a ‘slut ‘as the collective rape of their identity. Strong statement, but I think there is something in that. 

Our society has a lot to answer for.

Within all of this labelling, and image-creating, what is left is a fake ideal for both women and men to aspire to, robbing both genders of our individuality, creativity, integrity, and uniqueness. 

Gail argues that for these, and so many reasons, we are living in a perpetrator culture, where society does much of the grooming for pedophiles through hyper sexualized images and expectations placed on girls. This was the insight Gail received when interviewing pedophiles in prison. One pedophiles direct comment was that he did not have to do much work, as the culture did most of the grooming for him. 

Mass perpetration occurs in the forms of hyper sexualization of girls through every day images. Girls are therefore not able to develop a healthy sexuality or identity. 

This is exacerbated by the fact that most young guys get their sex education through watching pornography, which is very violent and abusive towards women. This often traumatizes young boys who are exposed to material they are often unable to process, given their developmental stage. 

We need positive sexual identity education for our young people, teaching as much about emotional maturity and responsibilities in relationships than sexuality. 

We need to have frank and fearless conversations about the adverse affects of pornography, and the hyper-sexualized and the violent commodification of girls bodies in our every day media, and campaign for change in this area. 

We need to be real about the impact pornography is having on our young people – their identities, their sexuality and their relationships. 

We need a revolution. A revolution of love. 

A love that seeks to extend worth, value and dignity to woman – a love that protects our little ones from emotional, psychological, social and physical harms that can often come from being sexualised at a young age. 

A love that is patient and kind, gentle and forgiving. A love that is not rude or self centered, but instead hopes, trusts and perseveres. Love that respects, protects and builds up. 

This kind of love will never fail. 

Here for more information: or to buy Gail Dine’s Book Pornland.

A great presentation by Gail Dines in 2011 at: NSW Parliament House captured on The Big Ideas forums on line. 

An illustrated lecture by Gail Dines: Portland – how the porn has hijacked our sexuality.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate Volunteer